Start the year with better objective setting – what the OKR method can do for you

Author: Christoph Woermann, Vice Chair of the CIM Financial Services Group

My first contribution towards helping honing better skills for financial marketers is focused on a topic that every one of us faces when planning for success in the new year: setting objectives.

In setting goals for ourselves or our teams we often fall into the trap of defining goals that are quite realistic to achieve so that we can already live in the comfort of the high probability of achieving them when we take the first step. This is a dangerous path, and on top, a sure fire recipe for mediocrity at best.

John Doerr, venture capitalist and author of the book ‘Measure What Matters’, advocates for a goal setting strategy called OKR, which stands for Objective and Key Results. For years, organisations such as Google, The Gates Foundation, and the non-profit ONE have been using the OKR system to define their strategies and track their execution progress.

“Good ideas with great execution are how you make magic. That’s where OKRs come in.” Larry Page, co-founder of Google

Here is what you can do now:

Set a nearly idealistic objective. The more ambitious your goal is, the more likely your results will exceed everyone else’s, even if the goal won’t be fully met. However, it is important to keep the objective one step short of being completely unrealistic. To stay motivated, your team members need to believe the objective can be achieved.

Define key results. Think both quantity and quality. Define three to five metrics that will help you track the progress towards the objective. For example, for a software application developer, a quantity key result would be to develop X new features. Reducing the number of bugs to Y per feature would be a key result aimed at quality.

Use colour coding when checking the progress. Take time to mark your key results weekly, monthly or quarterly. The results that are 70 to 100% complete get marked green, those that are 30 to 70% complete get marked yellow, and those with 0 to 30% progress get marked red. For the metrics marked yellow, you may need to create a recovery plan, and those marked red may be worth being replaced. A perfect situation is having a mixture of green and yellow: it shows that your goal is challenging, yet you are making progress towards achieving it.

A great summary video of John Doerr’s book produced by Nathan Lozeron is available on YouTube here.

I look forward to sharing more skills insights with you this year.